We had locked down the company I wanted, a major success but still something just did not feel right. I had a conversation with Mr. Li about my idea for an Old Shanghai theme previously and he was not enthusiastic about it. Aside from the argument that Northerners don’t do a Southern theme and it would seem out of place, he further felt that the theme did not have anything to do with us. In actual fact, he even felt uncomfortable with this theme for political reasons. “That time in Shanghai was a time when Western powers colonized Shanghai, it reminds us of a shameful time of submission. It’s not appropriate for a wedding.”
I was genuinely surprised at this but in all honesty maybe just a bit ignorant and naive. I have witnessed first-hand the Chinese anger that still rages within locals whenever the Opium Wars come up; it is, if I may be honest, the reason I often choose to introduce myself as German rather than British. The former will usually result in major enthusiasm, something I was not used to at all back in Europe, while the second will not be met with outright hostility, yet still tends to be a little less warm. Especially if the destruction of the Old Summer Palace, Hong Kong or the Opium Wars come up, the situation quickly turns sour. When I once suggested to one Chinese friend to attend a movie night, at which a film on the war was to be shown, they vehemently refused and got incredibly upset, stating “this is China’s period of shame, I would never watch a film about it.” More incidents along these lines have made it increasingly clear that this is a very touchy subject.
While I made the argument that an Old Shanghai wedding theme is purely an artistic statement and not a political one, and he quickly gave in when he saw how passionate I was about having this theme, I still felt uneasy at the thought of forcing a theme on him that he did not like. Part of me kept rethinking the decision, despite the fact that I was spending many an evening combing through the internet for Republican style wedding dresses and Qipaos for my bridesmaids.
One major concern he kept voicing though was that most Old Shanghai themes are rather dark, and indeed this was one of the issues I had noticed myself. Bordeaux red, dark green or the darkest shade of purple, velvet and other heavy materials made most of the decor I found online look rather dreary and depressing. Not very celebratory at all. Now a dark theme is only as dark as you make it, and so I decided to go with a champagne-white colour scheme that would lighten up the whole thing.
As I mentioned before, MiL had found the “phallic cake company”, and it seemd like a sign from the heavens that Old Shanghai would succeed. The pictures we found of a wedding by this company seemed themed around Paris, in dark purple and white, and was just the right amount of tacky to be fun. The thing that sold me were the penis cakes that were randomly placed among the decoration. I still wonder whose idea those were. Hence, this new wedding company, that I was 100 percent sure I wanted to do my wedding was known as the “penis cake company”. I managed to get in touch with the planner from PCC and she was very helpful and enthusiastic. As many long-termers to China will know, good service is not easy to come by in most parts, unless you pay horrendous amounts of money.
So, PCC girl and I had a chat about possible decoration for my wedding and I was impressed by the fact that she admitted openly to not having done an Old Shanghai wedding before, most other wedding companies would have just downloaded pictures from the web and sold it as their theme design.
However, such splendid service of course comes at a price. PCC girl announced that the wedding I had seen on WeChat cost a ludicrous 120 000 RMB just for the decoration! I always call China a country of extremes because in nothing you find a middle ground, and once again it just went to show you can either have inexpensive and shoddy or fabulous and bankruptingly expensive.
Mr. Li reminded me that in truth the price was probably less than this, since it is very common for Chinese business people to increase the actual price, especially if they are talking to a foreigner. Yet, even so, I already had a feeling that I would have to say good bye to Penis Cake Company. And so it was, after we told her our budget for the wedding, she suggested that we contact the hotel for the big decoration (i.e. big, luxurious cloths that are draped around the hotel and massive cardboard posters with decorative elements and the couple’s “logo”; at most modern Chinese weddings the couple tends to have a logo designed by the planners). PCC girl then said, she could do the small decorations on the table, i.e. the bit that I had originally considered doing myself before I saw her. This then left me with the question, why I should use her at all if I could instead cut the same deal with the hotel directly and save a lot of money in the process.
Back to Taobao it was. Now in the meantime, the theme had also undergone some modification. Since there just seemed to be so many reasons not to do Old Shanghai, the troubles of getting Northern wedding companies to do a Southern wedding, the fact that Mr. Li didn’t like it and the problem of it being rather dark and dreary, I had been thinking of alternatives. The logical conclusion was a UK-themed wedding. I was sure Mr. Li would love it and it was after all where we met, as he said before re Old Shanghai, it had nothing to do with us really. Quick research revealed that the UK theme tended to be too tacky even for me with the glaring red and blue of the Union Jack. However, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the ultimate combo of both themes, UK and Old Shanghai, when I found a “vintage UK” themed wedding that seemed to encompass exactly what I was looking for. In terms of the colours, I felt I wanted to keep the Union Jack colours but with a little twist, a dusty blue and a Bordeaux red to make it look a bit less tacky and a bit more classy. When I sent the pictures to Mr.Li and so finally on the third attempt, the wedding theme was born.